She hoped the crisp warmth of the morning would persevere until early afternoon, aware that only on warm days do Manang Yna’s therapeutic massages work best. Mai needed a particularly potent dose for tonight: Jun, her husband, was coming home early. She made sure of it during breakfast when she seasoned his fried eggs with salt and a pinch of finely ground mermaid bones.

“I’ll cook dinner tonight. You don’t have to bring home fast food or pancit.” Mai smiled. Jun almost missed it on his way out. He looked back at her through the aluminum screen door, anxious to be gone.

Ano? Ano?”

Magluluto ako ng ulam pang hapunan.” Mai winced as the door shut. After that, she phoned Manang Yna.

The retired nurse was gifted with the ability to reform her clients’ appearance and reinvigorate their bodies. Over the phone, Mai explained: last night, she found her husband’s collection of naughty videos on their computer. She must have sounded defensive, she apologized, she was looking for recipes for sinigang na sirena.

The older woman was completely sympathetic. Masahe lang iyan, iha, stressed ka lang. Mai refused to regret poisoning her husband, setting a trap for him, and preparing, even now, to seduce him as revenge. Hindi ka naman papatay, diba?

If Mai described girls in her husband’s favorite videos, could Manang Yna mold her face into a passable replica, for a fee? Mas mahal yun than the regular massages she enjoyed to maintain her figure and, sometimes, to enhance her breasts. Pero oo, syempre, para sa’yo. Anong oras ka pupunta rito?

So, tonight, her husband would come home to a woman he enjoyed and the women he loved could finally, finally enjoy him. But she needed him to come home.

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